New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the Trump administration’s nationwide crackdown on immigrants facing deportation was already underway in his city.
The nationwide sweeps were expected to start at dawn on Sunday, but de Blasio tweeted Saturday night that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency had already taken action in New York.
The mayor said ICE agents did not succeed in rounding up any residents of Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood and Harlem.
ICE agents are expected to hit the streets of at least 10 major American cities with plans to arrest some 2,000 undocumented migrants who entered the United States recently.
Over the weekend, demonstrators in dozens of cities across the US protested the planned raids, while some local and state officials have called for restraint.
In New York, advocates were coaching migrants on their rights, including instructions not to respond if agents knock on the door unless shown a warrant signed by a judge.
De Blasio has said New York would not cooperate with ICE. In a Saturday interview on MSNBC, De Blasio said that sees the raids as “a political act to convince a lot of people in America that immigrants are the problem.”
Receiving reports of attempted but reportedly unsuccessful ICE enforcement actions in Sunset Park and Harlem.@NYCImmigrants and advocates are connecting with residents and distributing resources door to door.
Remember: you have rights. Call 311 and say ActionNYC for help. pic.twitter.com/OZwpxlm30d
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) July 13, 2019
Like many other city officials, de Blasio fears the aggressive roundup could intimidate migrants, making them less likely in future to cooperate with local police, thus making it harder to ensure public safety.
Despite US President Donald Trump’s insistence that “most mayors” want the raids, many of them have expressed concern about the impending federal operation.
“Most mayors do. You know why? They don’t want to have crimes in their cities,” he said on Friday, repeating his frequent — and incorrect — assertion that migrants are more likely to be criminals than native-born Americans.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot told CNN the nationwide raids were “traumatizing people” in her city. “This uncertainty, this fear, is wreaking havoc.”
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez pointed out that in 2018, his first year in office, his Florida city experienced its “lowest homicide rate in 51 years — so I don’t understand the rationale for choosing Miami.”
Meanwhile, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms urged undocumented migrants her city to be vigilant and stay indoors on Sunday.
“We’re asking people, if you are in fear of deportation, to stay in on Sunday, to travel in groups,” Bottoms said on CNN. If “someone comes to your door, please don’t open the door unless they have a warrant.”
The scope of the operation appears far more modest than the “millions” Trump had promised would be detained and expelled when he first mentioned the raids — and subsequently postponed — last month.
But that has not eased the anguish felt by those who fear they might be targeted.
Adding to their concerns are media reports that ICE agents are prepared to scoop up not just those targeted by removal orders but also other undocumented migrants that agents may come upon incidentally.
That, potentially, could include some migrants who have been in the country for years, with homes, jobs and children who are US citizens.
The United States has been struggling for more than a year with a migration crisis on its southern border, as thousands of people stream into the US each month, mostly from Central American countries riven by violence and poverty.
The number of undocumented arrivals totaled more than 100,000 last month — down 28 percent from May but still at a “critical” level, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
On Friday and Saturday, dozens of protests were organized across the country by groups demanding the closing of overcrowded detention centers and opposing the planned raids.
Several American news outlets have reported on centers holding young children, separated from their parents, in crowded and unhygienic conditions.
US officials have acknowledged the overcrowding but insisted they are doing their best to provide decent conditions.
Some reports Saturday suggested that ICE might have to requisition hotel rooms to accommodate those detained in the upcoming raids.
A major hotel chain, Marriott International, was asked by AFP whether it had been contacted by the government.
It said it had not yet been contacted, but added, “Marriott has made the decision to decline any requests to use our hotels as detention facilities.”